The ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ

“Our place is there, where the Word of God is read, where prayers are offered, and where the Word is proclaimed. As [Jesus] custom was, he went into the synagogue.”

The following sermon by the minister gives an interesting explanation of the order of service in typical synagogue worship, within the context of Christ’s ministry starting in Nazareth:
http://www.sermonaudio.com/code_sourcefeatured.asp?reversecolor=FALSE&showoverview=FALSE&flashplayer=TRUE&tiny=TRUE&minimal=TRUE&eventtype=EVENTID&sermonid=11712104320

Why do so few believe?

The church in Britain today is at a very low ebb. Attendances are small. Congregations tend to be ageing and almost all declining. The vast majority of people show little respect for God. His name is blasphemed, His day is desecrated, His commandments are broken, His Gospel is despised and His church is for funerals. Why?

Evolution

The publication of Charles Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ in 1859 proved a turning point for Western civilisation. Up till then most people believed in a Creator God and feared Him. Now it appeared that God was not needed and that there was a natural explanation of the origin of the world. Even although evolution was not proved and much evidence existed to cast doubt upon it, yet human unbelief grasped hold of it as an escape from the Creator and Judge.

Liberalism

At the same time as Evolution was carrying all before it in the scientific and popular realm, German liberalism was undermining the church from within. Doubts were cast upon parts of Scripture. Questions were raised. At first it was about matters which appeared somewhat peripheral, eg the authorship of certain Biblical books. However, once doubt was cast upon the Bible’s inerrancy in one area it soon spread. If what Scripture said about the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible was wrong why believe the Bible on other points?

Entertainment

No age has had so much readily available entertainment as ours. People have no time to think about deeper things. The music is always on and it is of the kind that makes individuals forget God or rebel against Him. Television and video pictures are constantly and alluringly passing before the eyes to fill the mind and distract the thoughts from God. Pleasure is presented as the purpose of life. Envy is encouraged. Marriage vows are smiled at and sexual immorality is portrayed as something which everyone enjoys apart from Victorian hypocrites.

Pluralism

We live in a day when it is popular to regard all religions as having the truth and being different ways to God. Liberal theologians agree. It is considered the height of bigotry to say that the followers of any religion are wrong and on the way to hell. People conclude that there is no such thing as objective truth in the realm of religion.

Ecumenism

There are many churches. Which is right? Perhaps they are all wrong? What is a Christian? Within the large denominations some ministers are obviously heretics since they do not believe fundamental truths such as the atoning death or physical resurrection of Christ. The world hears an Evangelical preaching the Gospel, then hears his neighbouring minister and fellow-worker teaching universalism (that everyone goes to heaven). What is he to believe? The Evangelical treats the heretic as his brother in the church, so is heresy really a soul-damning error? No wonder the world is confused. Does the truth really matter? “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” (2Jn:10). “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal.1:9).

Funerals

Recently it was forcibly impressed on me just how damaging some funeral services can be for the Gospel. In our world, where ministers are viewed as primarily professional comforters, what is to be said when someone dies who gave no evidence of saving grace? The practice of giving tributes at funerals is becoming very common. In some cases it is an easy exercise, but in other cases, if one is honest, it is very difficult. Sadly many ministers today say what people want to hear whether it is true or not. It is becoming increasingly rare to go to a funeral and not to hear the dead being put to heaven. When the immoral drunkard hears his fellow-sinner sent by a minister to his eternal rest, he either rejects Christianity as lies or continues in his sins assured that he will still somehow get to heaven too.

Persecution

In some parts of the world becoming a Christian could mark you out as a target for beating, imprisonment or even execution. In Britain there is a more subtle form of persecution, but it is one that is very difficult to withstand. The real Christian is despised, patronised, ridiculed and ostracised. If you hide your faith you can be accepted. How hard it is to stand alone, mocked by the majority! How easy to compromise so that the popular people will not laugh at you! How often does one hear a sermon on hell? The world ridicules hell-fire preaching. Certain subjects such as the rôle of husbands and wives are avoided in preaching lest they give offence. There is a fear of mentioning specific sins from the pulpit.

Scandals

No doubt in every age there have been church leaders who have badly disgraced the Christian church by their behaviour. However it seems to be worse in our day. The horrid sins and crimes of Roman Catholic priests have been paraded in public. The uncovered immorality of money-grabbing tele-evangelists cannot be hid. The media loves to publish the scandalous sins of ministers so that Christians of whatever denomination or persuasion can be written off as hypocrites.

Man-made-conversions

In no age has the church been so concerned with results as at present. The number of conversions is the way used for gauging whether a ministry is successful or not. Because numbers are so important shortcuts are taken to ensure results. ‘How to’ manuals sell well. Man does the work of the Holy Spirit for Him. A decision of the will is all that is required of the unconverted. “Make this confession or say this prayer after me. Now you are a Christian. Don’t let the devil tempt you with doubts”. In this way even Evangelical churches are flooded with ‘converts’ who have never been born again. It is strange that ministers, the watchmen, do not fear being held responsible for deceiving souls to hell.

Lost Expectations

Because of the lack of visible results many even in the best churches are losing hope. Evangelism can be very hard work especially if you are seeing little fruit. It is easy to become fatalistic. If God means to convert He will. Meanwhile we sit back and do nothing or lay all the emphasis on teaching and worship. What is the point of speaking to my neighbour about Christ? They are not interested and have made that plain time and time again. What is the point of preaching evangelistically? Few unconverted folk come to my church and those who do have heard it all innumerable times. If we do not expect to see conversions it is unlikely that we shall.

Poor witness

If as Christians we were more consistent in our lives our witness would make more of an impact. Sadly Christians generally are as worldly as the rest of society. Our greed, bad temper, deceitfulness and unkindness undermines our words. Our lack of prayer leaves us without power. Our laziness and fear of man keep our mouths shut when we have evangelistic opportunities presented to us. Surely we need to repent and at the same time plead with the Sovereign Lord for revival!

The Fight

Do you think of yourself as a soldier? Do you feel you are at war? In one sense you do because the Bible says it. Yet it is easy to forget. The enemy is invisible and pretends that he does not exist and so we are lulled to sleep. But we have a real enemy with large and powerful forces at his disposal. Wake up and fight! There is no way that we can make it to heaven without fighting.

The Enemy

Our enemy is the devil. He has been around for thousands of years during which time he has tempted millions of people. He has trained on the job and has lots of experience. We cannot see him and that gives him a deadly advantage. Further, he has us under constant surveillance. We do not have to speak out for him to hear. He has no physical ears but can hear the thoughts going through our minds. He can whisper into our hearts in such a way as that we cannot readily distinguish his words from our own thoughts. Unlike God, he is not able to be present in more than one place at once. However he has millions of devils under his command and so, wherever we are, devils are never far away. He does not know everything but he is highly intelligent and being thousands of years old he has acquired a vast amount of knowledge.

The Wiles of the Devil

He has many of these. For example, he mixes truth with error. Obvious heresy is easily rejected but when camouflaged with a good dose of truth it is absorbed. Sometimes he emphasises an important point of doctrine but does so at the expense of another point which is disastrously ignored. He can readily quote (or rather misquote) Scripture, which he knows better than any of us. He tempted Christ in this way. Sometimes he appears as an angel of light and would succeed in deceiving the elect to their destruction if that were possible. On other occasions he promises that good can be achieved through evil. The end does not justify the means and we must never do evil that good might come. He is the ruler of the darkness of this world who loves to darken the understanding of men and women. One of his commonest ploys is to strengthen people in the belief that he does not exist. Nowhere in this world are we free from this frightening and powerful enemy.

Satan’s Aim

His great concern is to get us to sin and to do so more and more. He wants us to hurt God. Indeed his aim is to stir up everyone to fight against God. He knows that his battle with God is doomed to failure and that he will soon be cast into hell, yet he is so fanatical that he will fight to the finish. Even in hell he will be yelling his blasphemies against God. He hates the Creator and enjoys destroying. Because God loves His people Satan hates them. He will do all he can to spoil your peace and joy and make you feel miserable. He tries to seduce Christians into backsliding and so to bring shame on God and His church. If he can persuade you to lead others astray or to turn folk from Christ he is jubilant.

The Armour

It is intimidating in the extreme to have such a powerful foe, but God does not leave us to the devil’s mercy. We are provided with armour which is adequate. It is made by God and specially designed for the purpose.

  • Belt of Truth. The soldier has to ensure that his flowing garments will not hinder him. Fastening his belt and tucking in his clothes leaves him ready for action. This belt of truth is so important. Deceit and hypocrisy leave us vulnerable to the enemy. Be sincere and hate lies and you will stand strong.
  • Breastplate of Righteousness. It is also called the breastplate of faith and love. This is ethical righteousness. Anyone who is careless about morality is in great danger. Yes, we are justified by faith alone but the faith that justifies does not remain alone. Antinomianism is very common today and as Rabbi Duncan said it underlies every heresy. This is the idea that you do not have to bother about God’s law. God forgives your sins and therefore you can live as you like. If we are to stand against Satan we need the breastplate and must strive and struggle to live a holy life. Divine sovereignty in protecting us does not annul our human responsibility.
  • Gospel Shoes. It is said that Caesar’s victories were due to the superior footwear of his soldiers. The enemy was caught unprepared by his amazingly fast marches. We too need good shoes. These are the Gospel of peace. It is wonderful to know that Christ died for our sins and rose again. The full price has been paid for our deliverance. When Satan says there is no hope for us and that we might as well give up, he is lying. We have a great Saviour and can be at peace knowing that victory is sure.
  • Shield of Faith. The devil shoots burning darts at us to set us on fire. He says there is no God or that God is not fair or that God does not love us. These darts are quenched by faith. We cling to God in trust.
  • Helmet of Salvation. It is called in another place the helmet of hope. When Satan says this or that is exciting and that you will enjoy it and be thrilled by it, you need the helmet. You have been saved. There is a wonderful reward waiting for you in heaven. Why sell your soul for the trivial things which Satan offers? What shall it profit a man though he gain the whole world and lose his own soul (Mk.8:36)?
  • Sword of the Spirit. Jesus used the sword of God’s Word very effectively in chasing Satan away. We must know our Bibles well. Study the Scriptures. Fill your minds and memories with it. “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written…”
  • Prayer. This is a powerful weapon. It underlies and overshadows all the rest. It is vital both in attack and in defence that we use all prayer, always, with all perseverance, for all the saints.

Be Strong
The devil is mightier than we but God is almighty. There is no way in which we by ourselves can resist Satan’s wiles. Yet with God’s help we shall persevere and we are more than conquerors. Satan shall be bruised under our feet shortly (Rom.16:20).

Why Baptise Children?

Recently, talking to some of our young folk, it appeared to me that they were uncertain on the matter of infant baptism. Many of our best friends are Baptists. If you want a good Reformed and Evangelical church in England you almost always have to go to a Baptist church. Some of them agree with us in just about everything apart from infant baptism. Who is right? Is it the Refomed, Puritan-loving Baptists or ourselves? Why do we baptise children? It is simply because God requires us to do so.

What is baptism?

It is the sacrament of initiation into Christ and admission into the Christian church. It is the token or mark of the covenant of grace. God made two covenants with man – the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The covenant of works includes all of us and was broken when Adam ate the forbidden fruit. The covenant of grace is God’s way of saving some of those perishing for breaking the covenant of works. Basically there are only these two covenants. Although the covenant of grace was administered in a different way in the Old Testament yet it is the same covenant as in the New Testament. There is essentially only the one way of salvation in both Testaments. There is only one Saviour and in every age people are required to repent and believe in Him to be saved. If salvation could be obtained in Old Testament times by works then there was no need for Christ to come and Paul’s arguments for justification by faith alone in Christ alone, are negated. The sacrifices and types of the Old Testament were aids to faith and pointed forward to Calvary. The trouble with Baptists is that on this issue they ignore the Old Testament and the one covenant of grace.

Circumcision

In the Old Testament there were two sacraments, circumcision and passover, just as in the New there are baptism and communion. God commanded Abraham: “Every man-child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you” (Gen.17:10-11). That command still stands today. Further God added: “The uncircumcised man-child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant” (v14). Circumcision was administered to a child before it had reached the age of discernment, actually when only eight days old. Now it is exactly the same covenant of grace which we have in the New Testament age. Why refuse the token of the covenant to children today? Surely if anything there is a far wider application of the covenant in New Testament times. No longer are the blessings restricted to one nation.

But is it right to link baptism and circumcision so closely? Paul does exactly that when he writes: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col.2:11-12). He is writing to Gentiles who are uncircumcised, but here he describes them as being circumcised because they were circumcised in heart, inwardly and spiritually. That cutting off of the sins of the flesh is equated with burial to the old life of sin in baptism wherein also they are risen to a new life. Baptism and circumcision mean the same thing – a break with the past, a cleansing from sin and a new start. This linking of baptism and circumcision is also made by Peter in the words: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Pet.3:21). Circumcision is the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but to do this merely outwardly and as a sign is not enough. You must be baptised and circumcised in heart.

New Testament examples

No hint is given in the New Testament of such a change of administration as that children should now be refused the covenant sign and should be excluded from the covenant community. Rather, to the contrary, there are several passages which indicate that the children fully participated in covenant blessings and were regarded as part of the visible church. When preaching on the day of Pentecost Peter asserts “The promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39). Here it is plain that children were given a special place. Do we have any hint of children being baptised in the New Testament? Yes, there are several household baptisms in the New Testament and it is hard for us to believe that there were no children in these families. Paul makes an interesting statement when he says: “The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean, but now are they holy” 1Cor.7:14). Surely the children of Christians are special! They are here described as “holy”. God loves us and loves our children.

Christ makes plain the special place children have in His church. He rebukes the disciples for thrusting them away and implying that they had no place in the new order: “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Lk.18:16). The coming of Christ does not exclude or put children further away, but gathers them in. “He took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them” (Mk.10:16).

Why baptise children? As you look at the New Testament superficially it appears to say that you have first to be converted and then you can be baptised. The crowds on the day of Pentecost were baptised when they repented. The Ethiopian eunuch was baptised when he believed. It is still the same in missionary work. Adults profess their conversion in baptism. However when we also consider the Old Testament we see that the token of the covenant was commanded to be administered to children. This still stands because “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2Tim.3:16). When the New Testament is considered in unity with the Old, it in no way opposes infant baptism.

Immerse or sprinkle?

Baptists usually believe that immersion is essential. They argue that the main idea is burial (Rom.6:4) and that the person should be buried in water. But Jesus’ burial was not under water or even under ground, but in a cave. They argue that the Greek word baptizo always means immerse ie bury. However, any good lexicon will show that baptizo has other meanings and indeed that the main idea is to wash. For example this is the word used for the ritual washings before eating and could hardly mean immersion in Luke 11:38. There is not one case in the Bible where we can be sure that the baptised person was immersed. “Divers washings” (baptisms) include “sprinkling the unclean” (Heb.9:10,13). The amount of water is irrelevant because it is symbolic of the application of the blood of Christ to the heart “for the remission (washing away) of sins” (Acts 2:38).

The Sabbath

We live in a day of unfettered pleasure. People’s great ambition is to be happy. They do not ask, ‘Is this right?’ but ‘Will I enjoy myself?’ With the vast majority the concern is to discover what will make them feel good. And if they feel good about something it must be right. Take marriage vows as an example. Surely it is a very serious business to promise before God and in the presence of a congregation to be loving, faithful and dutiful to one another ‘till death us do part’. Yet how often today even professing Christian couples split up, one party, if not both, saying, ‘Our marriage is dead’ or ‘I no longer love you’. The vows are broken, a divorce is obtained and there is the temptation to remarriage with the resultant adultery. But God has not changed and His laws still stand and there is a Judgment Day ahead of all when we will have to answer to God for breaking His laws. Even in this life there is a price to pay for being lovers of our own pleasures rather than keeping God’s laws.

No commandment today is under such attack as the Fourth. One hears of professional footballers claiming to be Christians and yet playing sport, indeed working, on the Sabbath. We are told, “Judge not that ye be not judged” (Mt.7:1). Increasingly employers demand ‘flexibility’ of their employees and often in interviews for jobs those who will not work on the Lord’s day are not offered the job. It is very tempting for the Christian to go for the higher paid job which involves occasional Sunday work. Surely, they argue, God wants me to be happy, to provide for my family, to have money to give to the church and anyway the complexity of modern industry makes Sabbath work a necessity. What experts people are at providing excuses for disobedience, but God sees through them all. Thomas Peck says: “The Sabbath (besides the institution of marriage) is the only flower that has been transplanted from Paradise in our fallen world and has survived the scorching heats and blasting winds of wickedness for so many centuries”.

The Sabbath is a Special Day

  1. The very first Sabbath Day was special. The first six days of time were used by God for working, creating the world and all that it contains. He rested on the Seventh day contemplating his work and rejoicing in it. God did not have to rest because He was tired. Rather He was leaving us with an example and establishing a law for man for all of time.
  2. When God established His covenant with His chosen people Israel whom He redeemed from the Land of Egypt He spoke from heaven in the hearing of all His people Ten Commandments of which the Sabbath was one. This commandment was in the form “Remember”, implying the continuance of the Sabbath from creation.
  3. God wrote these Ten Commandments with His own finger on two tablets of stone so that they would be permanent. The tablets were to be kept in the ark at the very heart of Israel’s religion.
  4. Very severe punishment followed a breach of the Sabbath. One individual was caught gathering fuel on the Sabbath and God ordered that he should be stoned to death (Numb.15:32-36). One of the reasons for the Babylonian exile was the desecration of the Sabbaths (2Chron.36:21).
  5. Sabbath observance was to be a distinctive sign of God’s people in Old Testament times (Ezek.20:12,20) and still is to be such today. Their enemies mocked their Sabbaths (Lam.1:7).
  6. Special blessings are promised for Sabbath observance: “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it” (Is.58:13-14).
  7. Christ claims that as the Son of Man He is Lord of the Sabbath (Mk.2:28). This means that it is His day and He is the one to whom it is given and for whom it is to be spent. Having completed on the cross an even greater work than creation He rested in the grave on the Sabbath and then rose on the first day of the week which ever after was called the Lord’s Day (Rev.1:10). It became the day of worship (Acts 20:7; 1Cor.16:2).
  8. The keeping of the Sabbath is good for the mind and body, but essential to the soul. Why is there so much stress-related illness today? Is it not because minds and bodies need a Sabbath of rest. Why is religion at such a low ebb? One great reason is the neglect of the Sabbath.

How should the Sabbath be kept?

  1. Resting from work. There is certain work which is allowable on the Sabbath, works of necessity and mercy, such as that of doctors and policemen. Some pretend that all types of work can be necessary because one must earn money to live. They have to pay for their mortgage, their family’s education and their annual holiday. But those who use the Sabbath for making money will find that they are earning to put it into a bag with holes (Hag.1:6). There are Christians in the world today who have lost their homes and livelihoods for the sake of Christ. Let them be our examples and let us not be afraid to suffer persecution for the name of Jesus.
  2. Resting from pleasure. Some argue that they find sport relaxing, or Sunday papers, or watching television, or reading novels. But doing your pleasure on God’s holy day is strictly condemned (Is.58:13). Lay aside the weekday entertainments. Some misuse the day by spending it in travel so that they will not waste part of the working week.
  3. The day is to be kept holy. This means it is a day to be set aside for God. Some profane the day by idleness. They think that it is allowable to spend it sleeping. But the rest spoken of with regard to this day is rest in the Lord. It is a day to be spent in the public and private exercises of worship. It is a day for doing God’s pleasure.
  4. Specifically the day is to be spent as much as possible in prayer, singing praises, worshipping, reading Christian books and engaging in spiritually edifying conversation. It is a day more than any other for remembering God, His creation, providence and redemption, a day for the building up of our own souls and for doing all in our power for the conversion of sinners.
  5. It is a day to be enjoyed. God is looking for heart-worship. Dull, duty religion is offensive to Him. “Rejoice in the Lord” (Phil.3:1). “Call the Sabbath a delight” (Is.58:13). Sabbath delights, unlike the pleasures of the world, leave no bitter taste behind. God’s blessing rests upon our bodies, minds and souls. His love, kindness and covenant faithfulness will reach our families, our friends, our churches and our communities. Sabbaths here are to be a foretaste of heaven (Heb.4).

My Thoughts Are Not Your Thoughts

There are times in our lives when we are perplexed. We do not know what to think. Something really hard, painful and overwhelming has happened. We find ourselves asking, Why? We feel frightened, hurt, anxious, sad, forsaken, crushed, depressed. Doubts flood into our minds. Is there a God? Am I a Christian? Does he care for me? I can’t cope. Remember God’s word through Isaiah, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts’ (Is.55:8). Our thoughts are often worldly, materialistic, selfish and limited by the fact that we cannot grasp the whole picture. We fail to see the end, but only the point in the middle where we are struggling. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (v9). How limited is our vision! God takes everything in at once. He assures us ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Rom.8:28) and ‘all things’ means all things. We view the wrong side of the embroidery and see no pattern but only a tangle of different coloured threads. God sees the full picture. Let’s look at some examples from Scripture to encourage us.

‘All these things are against me’

These were the words of Jacob when he was going through the blackest experience of his life (Gen.42:36). From a human point of view things couldn’t get worse, but as God saw it all these things were for him and the best day of his life was just round the corner. True, Joseph appeared to be dead. He had seen the blood-covered coat of many colours and had heard nothing more for twenty years. True, there was a famine in the land and they seemed to be in danger of starving. True, Simeon his son was in prison in Egypt. True, the lord of Egypt required his beloved Benjamin to be presented to him before Simeon would be freed and they receive any more food. True, their money was returned with their sacks so that it could be construed that they had stolen the food from Egypt. But, Jacob, lift up your eyes. Remember Joseph’s dreams. God’s word will not return to Him void. There is a purpose in all that has happened and you will discover anew My unconditional love for you. My thoughts are not your thoughts.

‘The arrows of the Almighty are within me’

Job cries out in distress (Job 6:4). He feels that he is a target. Does God not take pleasure in hurting him? The arrows surely are dipped in poison, and death is now in his veins and moving through his body. How else can things be explained from Job’s point of view? He had 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 she asses and in one day they were all stolen or destroyed in a series of calamities. Then he had news that his whole family of seven sons and three daughters were wiped out in a freak accident. His skin came out in boils. His wife told him to curse God and die. His friends accused him of some horrid secret sin that caused God to punish him. Everyone regarded him with contempt. Surely God hated him? But no, rather Job’s latter end was better than his beginning. He lived for another 140 years and died in glory and wealth and triumph. My thoughts are not your thoughts.

‘Call me not Naomi, call me Mara’

Few women experience the grief through which Naomi went. She left Judah in a time of famine to sojourn in Moab with her husband and two sons. But her husband died in that foreign land. Her two sons married but before long they too passed away. She returns a poor widow to Bethlehem. ‘Call me not Naomi (pleasantness), call me Mara (bitterness): for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty … the Lord hath testified against me and the Almighty hath afflicted me’ (Ruth 1:20-21). Any bereavement is hard on flesh and blood, but think of Naomi’s treble. But the journey to Moab was not in vain. She brought back someone who would be better to her than seven sons, one of God’s precious elect saved from heathen darkness to be a mother of our Saviour. My thoughts are not your thoughts.

‘How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?’

The Psalmist certainly felt forgotten and forsaken (Ps.13:1). God does not seem to know what is going on, or if He does know He does not care. Surely God is hiding from him! His enemy is exalted over him and prospering. The Psalmist feels he cannot go on. He trusted in God and nothing happened. His prayers are not answered and there is no deliverance. Yet in the last verse the Psalmist cries, ‘I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me’. God had not forgotten him. Deliverance came at last. My thoughts are not your thoughts.

‘I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul’

David feels that surely Saul will catch him one of these days (1Sam.27:1). He has had so many near escapes it must be just a matter of time. Saul hates him and is determined to destroy him. But David is the Lord’s anointed. Samuel has prophesied concerning him that he will be the next king. God’s word never fails. Surely God has kept him up till now, can keep him and will keep him. But David doubts. He uses his own wisdom and goes down to the uncircumcised Achish king of Gath for safety, but it is almost the end of him. When Ziklag was burnt and the women and children taken captive David’s own men plotted to kill him. In great danger, David had to encourage himself in the Lord. He eventually became king. He must, because God said it. My thoughts are not your thoughts.

‘I had great bitterness’

Hezekiah was deeply troubled (Is.38:17). Isaiah had said to him, ‘Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live’ (v1). But he thought, I am still only a young man, I have no family, I have tried as best I could to serve God and here I am cut off in mid life. A dark cloud of depression came over him. He turned away from man, faced the wall and prayed. God in His good plan gave him another fifteen years. My thoughts are not your thoughts.

‘Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?’

John the Baptist was perplexed (Mt.11:3). He was in prison, never a comfortable situation. Things did not work out as he expected. Art thou the Messiah? Why do you not deliver me? Why am I suffering so much? My thoughts are not your thoughts. Jesus was indeed John’s Saviour. However frightened, perplexed, depressed you are, remember God knows what He is doing. His word and promises will not return void. Your ways are not His ways, but be sure of this, all who trust in Him ‘shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace’ (Is.55:12).